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D&D General In defence of Grognardism

Fanaelialae

Legend
Yes, you are correct. That's why we see so much advice online on how making suboptimal choices on purpose can lead to "interesting" situations in game.

I might be on the minority when I straight up tell my players not to do it unless they are okay with the prospect of quick, gruesome death. I believe the story is more interesting when players try their beast to overcome the challenges laid in front of them. I also don't care about what people call "metagaming".
My players usually operate as a well oiled machine (referring to my main group, not my newbie group) but they sometimes make suboptimal decisions intentionally. It always seems to result in a lot of fun. It's like adding a dash of spicy peppers to kick the scene up a notch. I'd say that, for us, fun > survival, so if it achieves the goal of being fun it's a win for us, irrespective of whether all the characters survive (though they frequently do).
 

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Nefermandias

Adventurer
My players usually operate as a well oiled machine (referring to my main group, not my newbie group) but they sometimes make suboptimal decisions intentionally. It always seems to result in a lot of fun. It's like adding a dash of spicy peppers to kick the scene up a notch. I'd say that, for us, fun > survival, so if it achieves the goal of being fun it's a win for us, irrespective of whether all the characters survive (though they frequently do).
What I don't like about "fun" is that it's so subjective a word that it doesn't really mean anything useful most of the time.

For instance, in my case, people making suboptimal choices on purpose just saps out all the "fun" for me as a DM. It just feels fake. That's why I always do robust sessions zero. Expectations have to be laid out from the beginning so I don't feel bad kicking people out later.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
What I don't like about "fun" is that it's so subjective a word that it doesn't really mean anything useful most of the time.

For instance, in my case, people making suboptimal choices on purpose just saps out all the "fun" for me as a DM. It just feels fake. That's why I always do robust sessions zero. Expectations have to be laid out from the beginning so I don't feel bad kicking people out later.
I'm not really sure I agree. While we might disagree on what approaches result in the greatest fun, I think we all understand what fun is and why it's desirable. (Admittedly, I'm assuming that Oscar the Grouch doesn't post on ENWorld.) Ideally, we can also respect other's ideas of what is fun, even if it doesn't match our own.

I agree that session zero is important.
 


There certainly is.

Imagine if you and I were co-DMing a campaign together. Two players are given identical pre-gen PCs and assigned to one of us. We each go into a sealed room with our assigned play and run the same adventure for that player.

The PC and the initial fiction are the same, but do you have any realistic expectation that the emergent fiction will be the same? The emergent fiction will almost certainly differ, because you and I will probably make different calls, and the players will each make different choices for their (same) character.

I think both to an extent are true. There is a difference between the player and the player character. But the dividing line is something of a construct that you have to work to maintain (it can still be very important, but the point is the player or the GM can easily allow that dividing line to slip). Both players in your example, even if they are maintaining that line, will have different reads on the character, and play those characters differently at different moments (though I suspect there will be places where they make the same choices when it is obvious that is what the character would do). Whether the players play essentially themselves or play a character (or if they play a character but drop some of the gaming conceits---like acting on player knowledge instead of just character knowledge) is really just a question of style and preference. I really don't see a problem with either approach. I do both in different groups. I lean towards playing characters but also keeping that line a little on the fuzzy side (because just like I don't forget I am in a movie theater watching a movie, I don't forget I am at a table playing a character in a game, and the purpose is for the player, not the character to be entertained)
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Hold on, doesn't this imply all of our groups who don't run games like you, are not well oiled machines only make optimal decisions some of the time :)
No, because I am only referring to my own players, not an entire playstyle. I would be surprised if anyone objected to you referring to your group as "skilled players", as opposed to using the term "skilled play".

I'm a white male. Saying "Fanaelialae is smart" is not only fine, but also demonstrates that you are a discerning individual of impeccable taste. Saying "white males are smart" is not okay, for a bunch of reasons including because it has a significant implication that anyone who isn't a white male isn't smart (which is undiluted horse excrement). See the difference?
 

No, because I am only referring to my own players, not an entire playstyle. I would be surprised if anyone objected to you referring to your group as "skilled players", as opposed to using the term "skilled play".

I'm a white male. Saying "Fanaelialae is smart" is not only fine, but also demonstrates that you are a discerning individual of impeccable taste. Saying "white males are smart" is not okay, for a bunch of reasons including because it has a significant implication that anyone who isn't a white male isn't smart (which is undiluted horse excrement). See the difference?

We are not talking about immutable characteristics like race, we are talking about something much more malleable: a style of play. And very importantly, I was joking thus the smiley face
 

Is there really any difference in the end? Is there a real separation between DM and fiction? Between PC and player?

To some extent; the question ends up being, would he have had the same success in playing in the Tomb of Horrors with a different GM? Because that means that what's going on has more to do with the perceptions and biases of the GM and how the player appeals to them then to the fiction per se, and that's true even with a well-meaning GM

I think it's a fuzzy and interesting subject. Angry GM has a wonderful article on this, but I'm not sure if I can post links here.

I agree. But it informs a lot of this discussion, because people who view the need to know the GM neutrally or in a positive sense are going to see this kind of process differently than those who don't.
 


There certainly is.

Imagine if you and I were co-DMing a campaign together. Two players are given identical pre-gen PCs and assigned to one of us. We each go into a sealed room with our assigned play and run the same adventure for that player.

The PC and the initial fiction are the same, but do you have any realistic expectation that the emergent fiction will be the same? The emergent fiction will almost certainly differ, because you and I will probably make different calls, and the players will each make different choices for their (same) character.

Well, the differences in the player can be argued as being the whole point, but the fact the same player would get different results out of it with different GMs deserves a bit more of attention put on it.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
We are not talking about immutable characteristics like race, we are talking about something much more malleable: a style of play. And very importantly, I was joking thus the smiley face
It doesn't matter whether it's immutable or a choice.

I like 5e. Saying "Fanaelialae is very smart" is still okay (more than okay, in fact). Saying "People who like 5e are very smart" isn't really okay, as it carries the implication that people who dislike 5e aren't smart.
 

Sure, I would agree with that. Although it's entirely possible for a player to make a choice for a character that they, themselves, would not have made (and would not have made if they were playing a different character).

Which gets into the whole question when talking about the player skill element about what degree its desirable for the player to play suboptimally; token play will give you a very different answer to IC play.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Which gets into the whole question when talking about the player skill element about what degree its desirable for the player to play suboptimally; token play will give you a very different answer to IC play.
I'd say it's entirely a matter of preference (individual, but also group).
 

It doesn't matter whether it's immutable or a choice.

I like 5e. Saying "Fanaelialae is very smart" is still okay (more than okay, in fact). Saying "People who like 5e are very smart" isn't really okay, as it carries the implication that people who dislike 5e aren't smart.
I think it is more like saying 5e is tactical
 

I'd say it's entirely a matter of preference (individual, but also group).

Sure. I'm not actually someone who views token play as an intrinsically bad thing in an RPG (because whatever someone enjoys at the end unless its at the expense of others is okay). But I think it becomes a particularly pointed part of the question when you start aiming at a very rules-minimal style because you want a bigger part of success or failure to be, from lack of a better term, at the human end.
 

It doesn't matter whether it's immutable or a choice.

I like 5e. Saying "Fanaelialae is very smart" is still okay (more than okay, in fact). Saying "People who like 5e are very smart" isn't really okay, as it carries the implication that people who dislike 5e aren't smart.
It doesn't matter whether it's immutable or a choice.

I like 5e. Saying "Fanaelialae is very smart" is still okay (more than okay, in fact). Saying "People who like 5e are very smart" isn't really okay, as it carries the implication that people who dislike 5e aren't smart.
Alss as I I hate 5e but if you want to say 5E is a smart edition of the game, I wouldn’t take that to mean my preferred edition isn’t smart (just that you find 5E smart, and you could probably provide reasons why), trying these kinds of statements about systems and styles to racist statements about race, is inflammatory and misleading—it’s bad rhetoric that taints the discussion
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Sure. I'm not actually someone who views token play as an intrinsically bad thing in an RPG (because whatever someone enjoys at the end unless its at the expense of others is okay). But I think it becomes a particularly pointed part of the question when you start aiming at a very rules-minimal style because you want a bigger part of success or failure to be, from lack of a better term, at the human end.
If the player wants to, and the group is okay with it, I see no issue. It's not so different from the DM asking for a roll and the player asking "can I choose to fail". I've only seen that a handful of times at the table, but I always tell them they certainly have that option.

Not every player will even want to do so, and the only times I can see it being an issue is if people around the table are of differing opinions on the matter. But, even then, hopefully they discuss it like adults and arrive at a compromise they can all be happy with. If not, then presumably some of them will need to find a different group that is compatible with their own preferences.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Alss as I I hate 5e but if you want to say 5E is a smart edition of the game, I wouldn’t take that to mean my preferred edition isn’t smart (just that you find 5E smart, and you could probably provide reasons why), trying these kinds of statements about systems and styles to racist statements about race, is inflammatory and misleading—it’s bad rhetoric that taints the discussion
Even if you, personally, wouldn't take offense to it, I can practically guarantee you that there are folks who would. Any time you paint with too broad a brush you should arguably question your approach and intent (and then double-check). Painting with a broad brush tends to lead to bad rhetoric that is inflammatory and misleading, and taints the discussion. It's also frequently incorrect, either in part or whole.
 

Even if you, personally, wouldn't take offense to it, I can practically guarantee you that there are folks who would. Any time you paint with too broad a brush you should arguably question your approach and intent (and then double-check). Painting with a broad brush tends to lead to bad rhetoric that is inflammatory and misleading, and taints the discussion. It's also frequently incorrect, either in part or whole.
Or we could all not leap to the least charitable interpretation of these things. Yes some people will react to that term by drawing the wrong conclusions about its meaning. But I think that’s a massive overreaction. And the problem is it just keeps us mired in a semantic discussion when all it takes is looking at what people mean by skilled play to understand where they are coming from. If someone has a boneheaded meaning behind their use, take issue with that. In your words: don’t paint with a broad brush and assume anyone talking about skilled play mean it in the most insulting way.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Or we could all not leap to the least charitable interpretation of these things. Yes some people will react to that term by drawing the wrong conclusions about its meaning. But I think that’s a massive overreaction. And the problem is it just keeps us mired in a semantic discussion when all it takes is looking at what people mean by skilled play to understand where they are coming from. If someone has a boneheaded meaning behind their use, take issue with that. In your words: don’t paint with a broad brush and assume anyone talking about skilled play mean it in the most insulting way.
You just described exactly why I consider the term problematic.

Mind you, I don't personally take issue with the term when used, although I'm able to comprehend why others do. It's why I use quotation marks when I refer to it (to denote that I am using terminology and distinguish it from the natural use of those words). I actually enjoy engaging in "skilled play", I just think that it's a bad, loaded term, and I would never refer to it that way outside of something like a D&D message board.
 

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